Training Your Preschooler to Sit in Church

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You looked so forward to being in church last Sunday, but by the time the service was over you had wrangled with your preschooler in the pew, your blouse was spotted with juice drops, the floor was littered with Goldfish Crackers, and you’re more ready for a deserted island alone without food or water than you are for the Sweet By and By!

Been there? Most of us have! But there is hope for you and your child to be able to sit through an entire service and actually hear the message and get a blessing out of it! Read on!

The picture below is the best place to train your preschool-aged child to learn to sit in church…

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This is your living room or family room couch. That’s right, the best place to train your child about church is in your own home. If you wait until Sunday morning to try to teach them to sit down rather than run the aisles and to whisper, rather than shout out their requests, you’re headed for disaster and major frustration. Here are my suggestions for training a preschool-aged child to sit in church:

  1. Clear the area you’re going to sit in and make it free of  distractions. TV is off and toys are stashed away.
  2. Get one or two quiet activities like a Bible flannel book or other quiet book, and perhaps one quiet toy like a coloring book and a few crayons (no markers!). These toys will be reserved only for your Quiet Time, so they’re “new” each time they’re brought out. Purchase or make several books/quiet toys to keep only for this teaching time and Sundays. Take a look at this! Find similar ideas on Pinterest!

    pocket sized magnetic fishing set | doodle craft - would be great little addition for quiet bag at church
    This is a magnetic fishing pond! Super easy to make and super fun for your child. Also super cheap!
  3. Set the timer for five minutes to start. Gather yourself and your child and tell him he is going to sit on the couch with you until the timer goes off. Give him one book or toy and tell him he may play with it while you sit on the couch, but that he may not get down or talk. It’s time to listen. Show him how to sit, and remind him this is QUIET TIME. Tell him If he talks the toy will get taken away – he must play without talking.
  4. Turn on a Podcast of your pastor, if available. If your pastor’s sermons aren’t online, use another broadcast. Have your Bible out and you sit still and listen.
  5. When/if your child starts talking, try not to answer with words, but put your finger to your lips and shake your head “no.” Don’t answer a question for those five minutes. Give a couple silent warnings the first couple of days, but after two heads shaken, take the toy away as you promised you would do. If the child throws a fit or screams, take him out of the room, go to his bedroom or yours and remind him what you’re asking. If he continues to disobey you may need to apply loving discipline to correct his disobedience. The rod and reproof give wisdom: but a child left to himself bringeth his mother to shame. Prov 29:15
  6. When the timer goes off, discuss how they did. “You talked to Mommy, but remember, this is Quiet Time; time to listen to pastor preach. Or, “Yay! You sat so quietly and played! I’m so proud of you and so is God! We got to listen to Pastor preach and that makes God happy!”
  7. The next day and for the whole week, keep up with the five minutes. The next week extend it to ten minutes. Keep at this until you’ve worked up to 30 minutes. A three or four year-old will be able to sit and play without food for thirty minutes. They’ll wiggle, they’ll sigh, but don’t give in and don’t give up! It will be worth it!
  8. If you have more than one child, have a separate bag for each child. Give only one toy at a time, and have each child on either side of you. Be consistent! If they talk, warn once, then remove the toy.
  9. If they throw a fit, discipline in another room, but then bring them back in and complete the five minutes. This will be the same routine once you take them into the service at church.  If they disobey, you must discipline, and it shouldn’t be just that you go out and play in the foyer – that’s what they want! Either discipline, then bring them back to the back row where you were wisely seated, or sit out there with your arms around them so they are not able to get down and play.
  10. Make this training time at home something to look forward to – not a miserable drudgery. That can be accomplished by the activity you choose to put into the bag, but again – just a quiet toy – not treats or lots of toys. Make it biblical, if you can, so they’re also “hearing about God.”

Who knows? You might even glean some wonderful Truths during your at home Quiet Times! It won’t be long – just a couple of months until you’re able to sit in church and actually enjoy the service. You know what? Your child will enjoy it a whole lot more, too!

Any questions? Any other suggestions?

Lovingly,

11 thoughts on “Training Your Preschooler to Sit in Church”

  1. Denise, this is absolutely fantastic advice for young moms!!! I taught my kids to sit in the service when they were very young. We were part of a church plant that was very small and had no nursery (and I’ve never been a big fan of nursery anyway except for infants). This tutorial you have shared is such practical, helpful advice. Thank you!!

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  2. What good ideas. I feel a little silly that I’ve never thought to practice this, but it makes so much sense! How else will the little ones know how to do it unless we practice it first? Thanks for the tips :-).

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    1. Thanks for stopping by and reading, Rebekah! We all need help in parenting and can’t think of everything – hence blogs and Pinterest! Praying for you as you train your sweet little ones!

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  3. This post reminds me of the days when I sat with my three (who are now 15, 12, and 10) in our living room when they were little. I would turn on a message on the radio and I would tell them to sit quietly as I listened for the purpose of preparing them to listen in church. When they were just toddlers I began to bring them into the church service gradually maybe for a few minutes at the beginning and then maybe through the singing until we were increasing the time they were expected to sit quietly in the service and eventually they left the nursery completely. I also took a bag with me to church with just a few Bible based books–maybe a children’s Bible with illustrations or a book about a Bible story–if they looked at something, I wanted it to be Bible related. I wanted them to know that church was different so we didn’t take Clifford or Dr. Seuss, etc. This bag of books was only used at church so it was something special. I found it more necessary with my first child and barely used it by the time my third came along. But my first child was very active both in body and mind, and he needed something to keep his hands busy. But he knew that when the books were finished, that was it. There were no snacks or toys. One other thing we did as the children reached preschool age–I do not remember where I got this idea, but it wasn’t original with me. I would take a notebook for the kids to take “notes.” Once our Pastor started preaching, I would listen for a minute or two to see what the message was about then I would draw a few objects in my child’s notebook. Every time they heard the Pastor say that word, they could put a tally mark by that object. For example, if he was preaching on the resurrection, I might draw a cross and an empty tomb and they could mark each time he mentioned those things. This allowed them to be engaged with what he was saying because they were listening for something in particular, and they could take their own “notes.” It was not always easy to train in this area, but I can say that the hard work eventually paid off with all three. Church is such a special and sacred place, and going to church is a time to set many things aside and be still and quiet before the Lord so we can hear His voice speaking to us. Sorry for the lengthy post; maybe my words will help another mom working through these things.

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    1. You sound like an awesome Mother! I also practiced with my children for sitting quietly in church. It’s not that hard if you start them young. I took sticky notes and let my children draw on them. Not only were the people around us getting the gift of sweet darling quiet children nearby, but I have a collection of gifts and treasures/drawings on sticky notes. It’s so important to teach your child to whisper.

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